Sunday 4 August 2013

Poem Review: The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

‘The Weary Blues’ is among the first works of Langston Hughes and is a benchmark in history of African-American poetic history. The poem was awarded as the best poem of the year by Opportunity magazine where it was first published in 1925.  It innovate the use of American blues in English poems, which serves as a landmark for various black musical artists; like, Sterling Brown, Yusef Komunyakaa, Michael S. Harper, Robert Hayden and other to follow the same trait. Blue music, which is considered a pure Negro work, unleashes a completely new dimension of the very exceptional black art and also reflects his early memories of Lawrence. Using the blue rhymes and lyrics, the poem not only reminds of the singer’s disappointment, sorrow and lassitude, but also the callous resistance in Afro-American society.
The poem comprises of seven sections and all of them indicate a sovereign perspective that reflects the pan-African perspectives. In this poem, he has showered some light on the roles that he has played so far, in his life. He presented himself as a slave, singer, Negro, worker and most importantly the victim of Afro-American social divide.
Hughes starts his poem with "Droning a drowsy syncopated tune," and "Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon," which follows "I heard", these sentences are called ‘dangling modifiers’. It means that there are some logical problems among proceeding and following clauses. Is it a mistake done unintentionally? The answer is, perhaps not. Using these grammatical structures, Hughes is trying to establish the connection between the singer and the listeners. It means that both the old singer and his audience are swaying and droning as he goes on performing and singing as described by the lines, “He did a lazy sway…” By showing so, Hughes is trying to express the emotions of not only the singer but the whole Afro-American community.
It also incorporates the beauty enclosed in black traditions and their sorrows. These are the sole reasons which are keeping singer alive and imparting him his true identity. The word “Down” may also refer to the emotional notion of speaker. The embedded opposition between the singer’s sorrow that cause his mood to lower down and his wish to stop his "frownin" and "put troubles on the shelf," are also worthy to be noted.
Hughes uses a word “raggy” as “He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.” which is not an actual English word. However, it can be interpreted into two ways; as “raggedy” which means frayed or worn out; or as “ragtime” which refers a style of Jazz music that is categorized by its highly enriched syncopated rhyme and a gradual intonation by the reader. Whenever anyone thinks of something “raggedy”, a strong thought of poverty, neediness and indigence strikes the mind. Like the idea of patchwork in clothing, music has the concept of patchwork too. African American music; specifically, the blues music, is inherently a patch of various trends of music all residing under a single umbrella. The word ‘fool’, conveys the sense of fool as devotee or fool as performer.
At the very end of poem, Hughes has described the exhaustion and weariness of the singer by explaining how “The stars went out and so did the moon”. This image does not carry any negative emotion. Rather, it helps him the exclude, or eradicate of emotions caused by his disappointments, lifelong failures, sorrows, agonies and also the loneliness in his life via the mode of blues music and by sharing the same with his audience. The expression of his emotions relieves him of all the agonies he had previously. That purging is accomplished by not only avoiding the troublesome of life but also mending it using blues music and ultimately liberating him from the sorrows; he had once. Although, his resilience as a singer is “far into the night he crooned that tune” does help him somehow, to diminish the intensity of the sorrows in songs. Finally, when he is done playing out; he is unable to determine whether his woe or his singing has imparted more to his agonies and/or sorrow.  So “the Weary Blues echoed through his head” when “The singer stopped playing and went to bed” and ultimately “He slept like a rock or a man that's dead.”

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